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Hardik Patel, other youth leaders plan fresh protests ahead of Gujarat election

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-07-2017 Maulik Pathak

Ahmedabad: Gujarat is set to witness a fresh round of protests led by youth leaders Alpesh Thakor, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani ahead of the polls slated for December, on issues ranging from farm loan waiver to Dalit rights.

The trio have become the faces of their respective communities in the past two years after leading a series of agitations against the state government on various issues.

Other Backward Class (OBC) leader Thakor and his supporters are planning to take out a march from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar on Friday, seeking waiver of loans to small and marginalized farmers who have less than 5 acres of land.

“We have taken out rallies in 200 talukas so far demanding waiver of loans for Gujarat’s farmers but so far the government has not heeded our demands. There are close to 6.37 million farmers in Gujarat of which 4.35 million have individual debt of Rs70,000 and more. We will take out a rally from Ahmedabad to the state capital on 7 July. We will intensify our protests if that does not work,” Thakor said.

Thakor emerged as the face of the OBC community that represents at least 20-22% of the state’s population in January 2016 when he began a protest against liquor addiction.

Thakor, who is the president of Ekta Manch as well as of Kshatriya Thakor Sena, had earlier this month appealed to farmers to not supply milk to dairies for a couple of days. On Wednesday, Thakor and his supporters staged protests in different parts of the state by dumping hundreds of litres of milk on roads to put pressure on the state government for a farm loan waiver.

Patidar quota spearhead and convener of the Patel Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) Hardik Patel has called for a fresh round of protests against the state government, starting from Gondal town on 8 July, for a farm loan waiver.

Called Shaurya Yatra, the protests will see PAAS leaders reaching out to farmers and carrying out a signature campaign for a loan waiver, the 24-year-old Patel said over the phone. “One of the main focuses would certainly be to press our demand for reservation. We will cover 34 villages on day one and reach out to farmers and take signatures from farmers to support loan waiver. We will continue this campaign for 54 days,” he said.

The powerful and influential Patidar community forms about 12-14% of the state’s population.

Dalit leader Mevani has announced a seven-day march, Azadi Koonch, from Mehsana next week under the banner of the Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch. The rally is to mark the first anniversary of the public flogging of a Dalit family by self-styled cow protectors in Una of Gir-Somnath district on 11 July last year.

“In this one year, such atrocities on Dalits and instances of violence perpetrated in the name of gau-raksha have only multiplied while the perpetrators roam free with impunity,” said Mevani.

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